Each year, the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) makes a trip to Washington, D.C., to speak with lawmakers about the lawn and landscape industry during Legislative Day on the Hill. This year, more than 150 landscape professionals spent the day walking between legislative offices on Capitol Hill.
Before the buses departed for the Hill, Jason Jordan, principal partner in the public affairs firm with Advocacy Associates, and Kristina Samonte, director of business development and communications with Advocacy Associates, shared some tips for having an effective impact when meeting with legislators and advocating for the landscape industry. Previously a New Jersey councilwoman, Samonte says, “A constituent with a personal story was impactful. If it affected someone’s livelihood, the elected official should pay attention.”
Here are 10 tips for efficient and successful advocacy from the NALP:
1. Make an appointment
Meeting with elected officials or their staff is the most effective way to advocate for issues. Contact the scheduler at the legislator’s office with a written meeting request and then follow up with a phone call. Explain the reason for the meeting and who will attend.
2. Do your homework
It is important to know the lawmaker’s previous votes or statements on the issue you are advocating. Be sure to know your local form of government, the local issues and the local budget. Know your facts, understand the opposition and create talking points to stay “on message.”
3. Invite lawmaker to your office/job site
Sitting in an office on Capitol Hill can make it difficult to understand what is happening at the local level. Offer a public invite to your legislator to visit your place of business or a job site on their next visit to town. This will help build your relationship and give an opportunity to authenticate your story.
4. Maintain your reputation
Wear nice clothes and be well-groomed. Be truthful. Don’t make threats. Be polite and courteous. Don’t exaggerate. Avoid partisan comments. Don’t be late to appointments. Keep your word and promises.
5. Make specific “asks”
Be sure to make it clear why you are meeting with the lawmaker and have a specific ask for action you are requesting the lawmaker to take. Getting a clear, direct answer can be tricky, so listen closely and make your ask as specific as possible. A good way to show team effort is to ask the legislator or their staff how you can help bring other legislators onboard or what you can do to strengthen their support.
6. Bring a leave-behind
Bring along something to leave with the legislator and their staff after a meeting. This will help remind them of the important points discussed as well as provide them with examples and further information that explains your position. Include specific bill numbers and the name of the legislation or registration. Bring a professional-looking business card to leave that has your name, company, location and contact information.
7. Be punctual
Not only could you have other appointments that same day, but also the lawmakers and staff have very tight schedules. Watch the clock, keep your visit short and focus on the issue. Don’t be late. Allow enough time for walking, security, finding the office and arriving a little early to mentally review your message and talking points. Being on time shows professionalism and respect.
8. Strive for persistent and consistent involvement
Staying involved with the issues year-round with a quick letter, phone call, email or social media post will bring about more effective advocacy. When addressing an issue, recognize that the legislative process can take months or even years to result in significant progress. Staying active long-term will ensure that any efforts by the opposition are being countered.
9. Write thank you notes and follow up
Whether it’s an email, a handwritten note or a quick post on social media, be sure to thank the legislator and their staff for taking the time out of their busy schedules to meet with you and discuss your issues. If you promise to follow up, be sure to do so to maintain your reputation and reinforce your message. In the follow-up, provide any additional information, stay informed on how the legislator responds to the issue and include any information for a public visit at your company offices or job site.
10. Share your experience
Tell your employees why you thought it was important to make the trip to Capitol Hill. Let them know what issues were discussed and how you plan to follow up. Let crews know how they can help and advocate any issues from the job sites. Share your visit with a photo or a quick note on social media or your website to show the legislator, customers and employees the efforts you are taking for the company.